Archive for March, 2008

State Science and Technology Policy Advice

March 10th, 2008

Posted by: admin

I wanted to make note of a National Academies report, State Science and Technology Policy Advice: Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges: Summary of a National Convocation, recently released in pre-publication form. (Essentially, this is an early draft of the report, uncorrected proofs.)

As the title says, this is the summary of a national convocation on providing science and technology policy advice to the states. It was held last October, and from the looks of the project website, it was the first of a planned series of convocations. The 2007 event focused on energy, the environment and economic development.

Personally, I welcome projects like this, which emphasize that science and technology policy in this country is not limited to the federal government. It is arguably more complicated at the state level, in part due to a relative lack of infrastrucutre and the intermingling with economic development policy. But with continued pressure on federal science and technology budgets, and states taking a lead on various science and technology issues (see California with stem cells and the Northeast with its emissions compact), state capacity in science and technology policy is more and more important.

My only caution is that this project focuses on what Harvey Brooks called “science for policy” – scientific and technological advice for various policies. An equally important part of science and technology policy is developing, analyzing and assessing policies for science and technology – “policy for science.” It’s not so easily separable from science for policy – unless you’re an academic.

Blogging – Even Daniel Greenberg Does It

March 6th, 2008

Posted by: admin

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a blog connected with its Review section. Called Brainstorn: Lives of the Mind, it collects the wisdom and musings of scholars in several fields. Among them is Daniel Greenberg.

If you’re a scholar of science policy, his name should be familiar. If it isn’t, stop reading blogs and check out his books. Perhaps best known for his book The Politics of Pure Science, Greenberg has written several books and articles about the American system of scientific research, mostly about how it is funded (or not) at the federal level.

If you’re still not sure about whom I speak, titles of his recent posts should suggest the tenor of his work:

Would a Department of Science Be an Improvement?”
Delusions on the Frontiers of Science
We’ve Got a Monster on the Loose: It’s Called the Internet

Whether you agree with him or not, Greenberg is worth reading. We could all use a contrarian viewpoint from time to time.

Interview at The Breakthrough Institute

March 4th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

I’ve gladly accepted an invitation to join The Breakthrough Institute as a 2008 Senior Fellow. They have an interview with me up on their blog here. And I’ll be blogging over there regularly.

If you are not familiar with their advocacy efforts, check them out and add their blog to your blogroll.

The Deficit Model Bites Back

March 3rd, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

We have often argued that efforts to communicate science in order to realize political objectives rarely work and sometimes backfire. This is of course a critique of the so-called “deficit model” of science communication.

Here is another example from Kellstedt et al. from the journal Risk Analysis (PDF), with implications for all of those efforts to educate people about the science of climate change:

Perhaps ironically, and certainly contrary to the assumptions underlying the knowledge-deficit model, as well as the marketing of movies like Ice Age and An Inconvenient Truth, the effects of information on both concern for global warming and responsibility for it are exactly the opposite of what were expected.
Directly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less responsible he or she feel for it; and indirectly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less concerned he or she is for it. These information effects, while striking, are
consistent with the findings of Durant and Legge(47) with respect to genetically modified foods, and with those of Evans and Durant(48) with respect to embryo research. Thus, we contribute another parcel of evidence that the knowledge-deficit model is inadequate for understanding mass attitudes about scientific controversies. . .

. . . despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming and climate change are real phenomena that create risks for the earth’s future, among the mass public, the more confidence an individual has in scientists, the less responsible he or she tends to feel for global warming, and the less concerned he or she is about the problem. Perhaps this simply reflects an abundance of confidence that scientists can engineer a set of solutions to mitigate any harmful effects of global warming.13 But it can not be comforting to the researchers in the scientific community that the more trust people have in them as scientists, the less concerned they are about their findings.

Of course, if my point is to educate you about the futility of education, then I’ve gotten myself into an interesting paradox, haven’t I?

Information Request – NSF and a Lack of Data Protection

March 2nd, 2008

Posted by: admin

Update – 3/3 I managed to find the relevant GAO report. It turns out that I was mistaken to assume that the report was released within a few days of the news report. The GAO document was released in late January. However, the relevant agencies are only listed in the report. They are not singled out.

Original Post

When a issue involving science and technology policy – if only slightly – makes the local news in DC, my ears perk up (sometimes even literally). Last weekend there was a local news report about government agencies’ general failure to implement Office of Management and Budget recommended procedures for protecting the data they keep. The Washington Post and other news providers picked up the story.

(For the record, this is one of many things I keep an eye on for my day job. If I could confirm what’s alleged below, I’d probably blog about it for the job, but it’s worth posting here for a couple of reasons.)

First, while most of the 24 agencies surveyed did poorly, only two failed to implement any of the recommended policies for securing information: the Small Business Administration and the National Science Foundation. I’m not raising a hue and cry on this point right now because I’ve run into a block – I can’t find the underlying documentation from the Government Accountability Office confirming the scorecard referenced in the report. So if there are readers that can speak to the source of the claims by GAO that the NSF failed to implement any of the recommendations, I’d love to see it.